The promise of the American dream continues to lure
immigrants to U.S.
shores, but the tide of opportunity is turning against the latest wave of new
arrivals, according to a new report.
When compared to workers born in the United
States, the latest immigrants are poorer
today than at any time since World War II, according to data released Wednesday
by The Pew Charitable Trusts.
In 2000, the average immigrant earned about 20 percent less
than their American-born counterpart, the report stated. In 1940, a typical
immigrant earned nearly 6 percent more.
Furthermore, while the children of immigrants today make
more money than typical nonimmigrants, their climb up the economic ladder has
slowed in recent decades, according to the report.
The second generation earned 6.3 percent more than
American-born workers in 2000, compared to nearly 15 percent more in 1970 and
almost 18 percent more in 1940.
Some of the difference in immigrants’ earnings reflects the
dramatic change in the economic and ethnic composition of U.S. immigrants, and
it is anyone’s guess how the economy will respond to that in the future, said
John Morton, managing director of economic policy for The Pew Charitable
“We are cautiously optimistic because there has been
such a strong history of economic assimilation in America,”
Nearly a million immigrants enter the U.S.
legally every year, up from about 320,000 in the 1960s, the report said, citing
U.S. Census Bureau data from 2000 and 2005. At least 500,000 more arrive or
remain in America
illegally, according to the Pew Hispanic
Center in Washington,
The report’s findings apply to both legal and illegal
immigrants because the census data analyzed for the report does not
differentiate between the two groups.
Immigrants from Latin America, Asia
and the Caribbean made up about half of all new arrivals
in the 1960s, but now constitute nearly three-quarters of newcomers. Meanwhile,
the number of European and Canadian immigrants has ebbed, the report found.
Remaining fairly constant in recent decades has been the
educational background of new arrivals.
Almost half of immigrants from Latin America
arrive with less than a high school diploma, while about half of those from Asia
have a bachelor’s degree or higher, the report stated.
A high school education does not go as far as it used to in
however, a challenge for immigrants and American-born workers alike, said Ron
Haskins, the report’s author.
“Precisely at the moment that you get higher
educational requirements, you get an influx of a very large number of
immigrants with low education,” he said.
Damian Amancio, 30, moved to New York
13 years ago from the Dominican Republic,
and is taking English language classes in hopes of eventually attending college
and law school. His two-year-old son and 2-month-old daughter will be better
off if he and his wife are educated and able to help them with homework, he
“I realized in this city I have a better opportunity
for me and my family in the future,” he said. Quoting a saying popular in
the Dominican Republic,
“To be American is a future,” he said.
The income earned by children of immigrants is closely
correlated with their parents’ wages and education levels, as with
American-born workers, the report found.
Country of origin also plays a role. Immigrants from
industrialized nations tend to earn more than nonimmigrants, while arrivals
from non-industrialized nations typically earn less, according to the report.
By the second generation, wages for both groups move toward
average nonimmigrant incomes, particularly when education is factored in, the
Hicham Skhoun, 26, came to New York
from Morocco a
year ago to learn English and further his studies in computer science. He’s
watched other immigrants toil at low-paying jobs for lack of an education, he
“The opportunities depend on the people, because there
are people who look only for money,” he said. “There are people who
come here and work 12, 14 hours a day.”
“I believe in the American dream,” he said.
– Associated Press
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